Tuesday, April 07, 2015

10-22-2011 "Clarification on some rumors that have been on some blogs", MH fielded the trademark controversy the week after the Result Source Inc contract was signed, implications for 2013

If we were to cast about for an example of "what" blogs have discussed about Mars Hill that Mars Hill saw reason to respond to, then we'll benefit from understanding that blogs in themselves (and their bloggers) only warranted responses when the "what" of what they were talking about was a big enough of a deal to get addressed.  Take, for instance, the late 2011 trademark and logo incident where a cease-and-desist letter was sent out.  The reason it's valuable to wade back into this particular kerfuffle is to reveal that it set a precedent that should be borne in mind for a controversy that would erupt two years later.



Clarification on some rumors that have been on some blogs

by Mars Hill Church on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 8:34 pm 

At Mars Hill we like to be generous with everything we’ve been given. For over ten years, we’ve made all of our sermons available for free online, invested significant time and money to help raise up thousands of leaders around the globe through theresurgence.com, and given millions of dollars to plant dozens of churches through Acts 29. Recently, this has grown to include such things a free Leadership Coaching and Campaign research to help other churches and ministries grow. We love other churches and ministries, and we love giving generously to serve them.

By God’s grace, our ministry has grown to the place where we’re recognized by people all over the world. With this kind of recognition, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the influence that God has given us to tell people about Jesus.

Sadly, in addition to giving things away, we’ve also had things taken. We’ve had churches cut and paste our logo, take our website code and copy it completely, had ministry leaders cut and paste documents of ours, put their name on them to then post online as if it were their content, and even seen other pastors fired for preaching our sermons verbatim.

We’re not the only church called Mars Hill, and occasionally there arises confusion between us and other churches that share the “Mars Hill” name, particularly as we now have our churches in four states. This was the case recently when one of our members called us to find out if we had planted Mars Hill churches in the Sacramento, California area. We had not, but when we went to these churches’ websites, it was obvious to us how people could be confused. Each of these three connected churches in the Sacramento region—planted in 2006, 2007, and 2010—bore the “Mars Hill” name and their logo was substantially similar to the logo we’ve used since 1996.

When cases like this arise in the business world, it’s customary for a law office to send a notice asking the other organization to adjust their branding to differentiate it. This is commonly referred to as a cease and desist letter. On September 27, 2011, our legal counsel sent such a letter to these three Mars Hill churches requesting that they change their logo and name. In hindsight, we realize now that the way we went about raising our concerns, while acceptable in the business world, is not the way we should deal with fellow Christians. On Friday we spoke with the pastor of Mars Hill in Sacramento to apologize for the way we went about this. We had a very productive conversation and look forward to continuing that conversation in the days and weeks ahead.

We made a mistake in not calling these churches prior to sending the letter. We should have picked up the phone before sending any other communication.

Unfortunately, rather than hearing from the church in Sacramento, we began hearing that the matter was instead being speculated on by a blogger who did not verify any facts with us and, as a result, provided an inaccurate version of what transpired. This blog post from us is intended to alleviate any confusion.

As a clarification, we have not sued any churches and have no plans to sue any churches.
We have not sent any similar letters to any other “Mars Hill” churches, and we are not planning on asking any church with “Mars Hill” in their name to change their name.
What's striking now that robots.txt has been dropped from Mars Hill sites (here and there) is to consider that the trademark imbroglio Mars Hill Church was involved in with that cease-and-desist letter, it was publicly addressed on October 22, 2011.  That's basically a week after Sutton Turner signed the contract with Result Source Inc. to ensure a #1 spot for the Driscoll book Real Marriage, a book which turned out to have made use of ideas published by Dan Allender in 1990 but which did not cite him or give him credit in the first edition. To go by what Warren Throckmorton compiled on the range and number of citation errors in Mark Driscoll's books, there were more citation problems found in Real Marriage than in any other book with Mark Driscoll's name on it. That the citation problem was eventually remedied would "seem" to confirm the significance of the lack of proper thanks to Allender's work having been observed and conceded in the original print edition.

You can go see for yourself on the contract it was dated October 13, 2011.



So it's worth remembering that when the plagiarism controversy erupted two years later there had been a precedent of Mars Hill collectively expressing regret that people had been copying their work without giving them credit slightly more than two years prior.  Which, for the purpose of public figure distinctions, kinda looks like an example of Mars Hill and its leadership publicly broaching the subject of copyright infringement of others' works two years before Janet Mefferd had her on-air confrontation with Mark Driscoll about his failure to adequately give reference to the intellectual property of others.  While some of Driscoll's fans may still feel that on-air confrontation was unfair if the heads of Mars Hill hadn't made a point of raising the issue of their IP two years earlier there wouldn't have been a public record basis from which Mefferd could have felt there was a legitimate ground for a public challenge to Driscoll about whether he had given credit where it was due.


molly245 said...

So, in playground vernacular: "He started it"?

Agreed that they did in fact raise the issue first. Also agreed that your conclusions about Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill are correct....and agree with the bloggers totally.

But, generally speaking, does it give strength your your argument that something is ok because someone else does it first?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

the argument is not about "they started it" in terms of just what but how. It is partly to do with what they opted to do with respect to controversy in the public sphere. Keep in mind that an initial reaction on the part of MH was to claim The Trial series study guide was assembled with help of research assistance. One of the early gambits of MH in the wake of the plagiarism confrontation was to allude to people whose names weren't even credited on the finished product Mefferd demonstrated lacked adequate citation.

There's also another incident from 2012 to keep in mind, Driscoll's pre-emptive "Blog Post for the Brits" in the immediate aftermath of the Justin Brierley interview. If Driscoll worked as a professional journalist than adversarial interviews shouldn't have been a surprise. The cumulative pattern seemed to be that Mars Hill leadership was showing a willingness to be on the giving end of hardball tactics they found unacceptable when the tables were turned. It was okay to let the cease-and-desist go out to begin with but when confronted directly Driscoll told Mefferd the plagiarism accusation was "accusatory and unkind". It's not exactly "he started it" it's that the fuller chronology suggests the possibility that hypocrisy and double standards were part of the problem.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

that there turned out to be an abundance of citation errors in Driscoll's published body of work suggests that the "playground vernacular" version is they were utterly failing to follow the Golden Rule in its negative form, if you don't want people to do it to you don't do it to them, either.

molly245 said...

I see, thanks for your explanation!

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

A few additional things. Back in December 2013 MH claimed the Trial study guide wasn't up for sale when it was. More importantly, MH stated that there was research assistance on the book in the wake of Mefferd's evidence of citation errors in the Trial (1 & 2 Peter) guide.


But the trouble was Intervarsity Press confirmed the problem and Docent Group produced evidence that the research help could not have been to blame.


To date MH has never issued an apology for passive aggressively trying to spread blame for citation errors that only had Mark Driscoll's name on it on to those who were publicly named (at one point) as Driscoll's research help and this by no less than Driscoll himself.


In this lengthy post, there's reference to James Duncan's work demonstrating that the citation errors in the Trial study guide transformed what were references in secondary literature into presentation of consulting primary sources:


In other words, it was the kind of citation error that couldn't have happened by accident. You can't just substitute footnotes in secondary literature to primary sources and present a finished product that footnotes the secondary literature's primary sources on accident, can you?

So the full irony of the trademark/logo scenario was that MH sounded off on the badness of copyright infringement and then a bit more than a year later when confronted by Mefferd one of the MH responses in late 2013 was to essentially include the research help in bearing the blame for citation problems in material that only Mark Driscoll's name was on in the published, finished product. Driscoll went on in a Tyndale press release to accept the full blame for the citation errors but MH as a whole did not seem to offer any apology to or retraction of the implication that research help had any blame in the situation.

It's important to remember that before the public apology the public implication was Mark's research help bore some responsibility for something everyone agreed was a serious breach of intellectual property. The significance of these double standards would be difficult to overstate.

Now precisely who was at fault for the legion of citation errors in at least six or seven of Driscoll's published works may ultimately not be significant in itself. How did a phalanx of editors and proofreaders not catch so many errors? But what remains important is that the flip-flops taken by MH and the blame-shifting have been preserved for posterity in the journalistic coverage of the time. What made the Trial study guide unusual, and which may have been the signal reason for the drastically different approach taken by MH and MD, was that it was the one work that was copyrighted to MHC and not MD. The majority of content with Mark's name associated with it was registered not to Mars Hill but to Mark Driscoll.

Kind of a post in itself ... but it's worth review.